Project “New Leaf”

As 2013 came to a close late last month, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could make the most of the coming year. I could have devoted my efforts towards a new set of resolutions, as I typically do, but to be honest they would have closely mirrored the set I failed to achieve in 2013 or even 2012. I dropped the ball on pretty much all of them, save that I did revisit New York last Spring. Instead, I made a plan. I outlined all the things that I had spent the past 12+ months wishing I had or were doing in life, and item by item I identified what I could do to make these aspirations a reality. This would be my project for the next year and beyond.

And of course, every great project needs an equally great name. So with a little bit of inspiration from the latest Animal Crossing game, I have christened by endeavor “Project New Leaf.”

Although I won’t be moving to a new town or making friends with anthropomorphized animals, I will be starting over in a sense. There’s no reset button that’ll allow me to give 2013 another try (as much as I’d like that), but I don’t think it’s too late to turn over a new leaf and try to be more like the person I wish I was going forward.

Much of this project takes inspiration from Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project“, which – conveniently – I read at a time when I most needed the words inside. I won’t be following her model exactly, but there was a lot about her project that I found instructive while devising my own. At the very least, I can say this: I won’t be turning this blog over to my project. I might occasionally write a post related to my progress, but mostly I plan to use my Twitter for that activity. I have bigger plans for this blog than just a self-improvement diary.

So what are the goals of Project New Leaf? Well, at this risk of having this sound like a list of New Years Resolutions (a practice I’m foregoing this year), my project has a few major tenants.

Revitalize my social life

Although I live closer to many of my friends than I did a few years ago, I see them all very infrequently, causing our relationships to deteriorate. For one reason or another, I stopped dancing regularly in the last couple years, so the only time I see most of my friends is maybe once a month when I drag myself out to a dance venue. As a result, when gatherings outside of dancing are organized, I’m rarely if ever invited. I’m quite simply not on their radar anymore. As much as I enjoy being by myself, this is ultimately a very lonely lifestyle. I need to get back out in the scene and start rebuilding these friendships. Additionally, I’d like to build some friendships outside of Sacramento. Although I doubt Comic Con is on the docket this year, I would like to attend some nerd conventions and get to know some more people in the community at large. Besides, I need some more people to talk to on Twitter.

Build a real online presence

Related to that last point, it’s time that I really start being somebody online. I frequently feel like I’m just talking to myself when I’m on Twitter, for example. Part of the problem is that I’m not more active on Twitter: most days I simply read the stream of tweets without saying anything myself. I also need to write more on here, and when I do, advertise it to my followers. No one can read my writing if they don’t know it exists. Finally, I need to make more connections online and network, as self-serving as that may sound.

Save / invest my money

Although I left college with absolutely nothing in terms of debt and can generally live within my means, I’m not perfect when it comes to money management. This past year I had two vices that proved to be huge drains on my finances: coffee and digital comic books. I never went hungry, but I could rarely devote my money to things that weren’t food, gas, or bills. Every extra purchase – like new clothes, a new book, or a car repair – carried significant weight. It’s not a fun way to live. In order to have and do all the things that I want, I need to stop wasting money this way and either save more or invest it in ways that will be worthwhile long-term (like on a new laptop or a trip somewhere).

Take care of my body

I’m not nearly as active as I should be, and I certainly don’t always make the best decisions where my eating habits are concerned. I walk and bike to places when I can, and in the warmer months I even go for long rides along the American River just because it’s fun. But when I look in the mirror, it’s clearly not enough. My aforementioned coffee habit didn’t help matters, but poor meal choices did just as much damage. I need to eat at home more and pack my lunch for work (which both have the added benefit of saving money). I also plan on joining a gym as soon as possible, since it seems the most effective way to keep me active on a regular basis. I’m 26 years old; it’s time I started treating my body with respect.

Spend time on pet projects

Of all my hobbies, writing has frequently been the one I neglect. Which is a shame, as I really do love writing. As frustrating as it can be, I really do love sitting at a keyboard (or with a pen and paper) and letting my thoughts flow onto the page. It’s cathartic. But I want to do more than simply report the goings-on in my life. I want to create entire worlds, filled with characters that I and others can relate to and share in their adventures. I’ve always called myself an “aspiring author”, but the time has come to stop aspiring and start doing.

I have other pet projects besides writing, but they haven’t quite reached the point where I can talk about them yet.

Expand my horizons

This one’s simple: I just need to keep exposing myself to new experiences and ideas. That means reading more books (both fiction and non-fiction), watching more movies, playing more videogames, and going on more trips to new places.

Remember what’s important

There are many important things in my life – my family and friends, for instance – but I am also very important. I need to remember that when I’m making decisions. My wants and needs matter just as much as anyone else’s. It may be selfish, but if we don’t look after our own self-interests from time to time, no one else will.

Make my own future!

Finally, if I learned anything in the last couple years, it’s that sometimes you can’t just wait for opportunity to come your way; you have to make your own opportunities. That was the whole philosophy behind my much-lauded contingency plan, which unfortunately didn’t end up panning out either. But that’s okay. Since Plan A and B both flopped, I need to devise a Plan C… and a Plan D… and so on until one of them is successful. I am in charge of my own destiny, and I will not settle for 2nd best.

So that’s my plan, Citizens of the Web. Wish me luck!!